/ Technology

Win! Nuisance calls bosses will be hit with big fines

New laws come into place today to make company directors accountable for plaguing people with nuisance calls. How soon could the Information Commissioner’s Office use their new powers?

Most people you talk to can share a frustrating story about nuisance calls and spam texts. We share that pain. In fact, we’ve been campaigning for five years to put a stop to the problem.

We were pleased that in 2015 the UK Government reduced the legal threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to act and issue fines of up to £500,000 to companies that were found to be breaching the law relating to nuisance calls.

But bosses have still been getting away with it – that’s until today.

Making bosses accountable

The first recommendation of Which?’s taskforce report for the UK Government, published in 2014, was to consider introducing legislation to enable board-level executives to be held accountable for the actions of their company.

Companies that unlawfully make unsolicited marketing communications by phone or text message can be fined by the ICO. However, enforcement action can only be taken against the company, rather than an individual company director.

In some cases, rogue directors are able to avoid the fines by closing one company and starting up another with a new name, known as phoenixing, to continue their activity.

After many years working on this, new legislation comes into place today that will change that. The ICO will now have the power to issue fines directly to the directors of these companies, as well as to the companies themselves.

This is a great win for Which? and the half a million people who have supported us in our campaign.

Fighting for consumers

Good progress has been made in this issue, with the ICO figures estimating that the number of nuisance calls have been falling. But we know they still exist, and we think that making the individuals responsible will continue to reduce the number of these rogue operations in existence.

This is of course just one tool in the box in ending nuisance calls, and should be used in conjunction with the others available, but we’re keen to see the ICO swiftly use these new powers to demonstrate that there will be no escape from tough action.

Do you think today’s new law will reduce the number of nuisance calls being made in the UK? How quickly do you want to see the ICO act? Do you have any tips for avoiding cold callers?


How many of those objecting to my earlier posting that complainers should take action themselves to limit the nuisance, by buying a call blocker for example, are prepared to spend additional money on securing against unauthorised entry and damage their homes and cars for peace of mind, rather than relying on legislation, crime detection, law enforcement and the judicial system, for which we all pay? There seems to be inconsistency, with some precautions and protection being ‘their’ responsibility alone, and others a personal responsibility, in part at least.

I did not mark down your post but suggest that others have because it started: “If more people would stop whinging….” My view is that service providers should have the call blocking facilities at the phone exchange so that customers can use them if they wish.

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Following Troika’s post that attracted criticism, one of our contributors said that certain service providers do offer offer a call blocker service that does not require customers to install their own. I am keen to encourage all service providers to offer the best available call blocking service.

You do attract a bit of criticism, Duncan, but I can’t remember you or any of our regulars telling anyone to stop whinging.

It seems an extraordinary number of thumbs down and an equally extraordinary number of ups for the subsequent response. Until “central” systems of call blocking are available it seems perfectly reasonable to suggest those who are particularly concerned do take their own precautions. Some local authorities can help, I believe.

“Whinging” was not the most diplomatic word to use, perhaps, but it can be a little irritating when the means are available for people to protect themselves.

I suspect the thumbs system is sometimes hacked. There are also odd commenters who very often get one thumbs up no matter what they post, and surprisingly quickly after the post appears – or so it seems but it may just be my imagination.

I think the thumbs down at least has very little value without an accompanying comment – or 14 in Troika’s case!

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If you can post something about this in the Convo on radio interference, I would be interested. A simple resistive or capacitive dropper will not produce interference but is not the most efficient way of running LEDs.

malcolm r said: 25 January 2019

It seems an extraordinary number of thumbs down and an equally extraordinary number of ups for the subsequent response…I suspect the thumbs system is sometimes hacked. There are also odd commenters who very often get one thumbs up no matter what they post, and surprisingly quickly after the post appears.

Well, as I believe I’ve demonstrated, there’s no need to ‘hack’ it; it’s a flawed system that we should ditch. What struck me in that specific instance was the same number of ‘down votes’ for Troika as there were ‘up votes’ for the response.

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People are often busy with day-to-day shopping and other things. They don’t need to be burdened with legislation. But legislation is crucial to dealing with this.

try trucaller app it’s free and blocks loads of unwanted calls and texts give it a go

My wife and I run a small business from home and were plagued with unwanted calls at least 10 a day at any time of the day or night so we bought a BT telephone system at a cost of £100 and this has stopped the problem completely so it was money well spent, working through the official channels was completely useless and had no effect so we had to use our own solution expensive but effective.

Hi Colum,
Nuisance calls are on the increase again, most of them are automated voices asking you to press 1 to speak to someone. They are much quicker and likely to achieve more results than the Indian call centre scammer.

Nuisance calls bosses being hit with big fines does not go far enough, the Information Commissioner’s Office now needs to go after the caller ID spoofers.

Scammers seem to now have access to a lot of unused phone numbers as in the past, whenever I got a scam phone call and looked up the number, it would have already been reported many times over quite a long period. But in the past few weeks, I have been the first person to report several numbers so the scammers now have access to more unused numbers.

I got to thinking how they would have access to these numbers and came up with……..

We get a lot of silent calls, pick up the phone and nobody is on the other end. Presumably they are automated, so the dialler would be able to distinguish unused numbers from used numbers and answerphones, creating a huge database of numbers available to spoof.

I made a suggestion not long ago and asked if it is possible to stop phone numbers traversing the phone lines/airwaves if they are not in genuine use or being paid for.

Thanks for replying Colum.

There has been a definite change in nuisance calls in the last month or so with less real people on the other end of the phone. I don’t get the impression many of them are UK based so I can’t see the legislation having much of an impact on them or caller ID spoofing.

The ‘Telephone Preference Service’ is useless! I understand they have no control over foreign callers and pretty much all the nuisance calls we get probably come from Asia (according to the accents etc)
I did have a call blocker device installed but had to disconnect it due to many computer problems which were eventually identified as being caused by the call blocker (Or so I was told by the IT engineer?)
I must say that it seemed to fix the computer problem. So now we still get many nuisance calls again. It is a huge annoyance and is about time it was stopped.

At last. I was wondering why I hadn’t had any at all in the last two or three weeks. I used to get three or four a day and always blocked them. It come to a point where I was thinking if only someone could develop an android app to block all numbers from a certain area. Mine were mainly all nuisance calls from London so an app block 020 numbers would have been great as I don’t know anyone who lives in London. As soo as you block one number another comes up. The phone companies could have done something about this years ago. Finally glad to see our government has done something about it.

I bought a phone with a Call-Blocker, and use it a lot, although it still allows nuisance calls to ring my number! What`s the point if we still have to rush to the phone?
Also, many nuisance callers now use a different number every time they call. I would like to ask BT, how is it that they can do this, and why aren`t BT stopping it. It is obvious that if someone is using a different number every call that it is only by the crooks who plague our lives. Why haven`t BT, with all their sophisticated telecoms systems, stopped this. I suspect that BT want the revenue from these calls, so don`t try to stop them.
It also took BT along time to cut off connection after a call, which scammers were using to make victims ring them again. If you or I try to re-connect after putting the phone down it has never worked.
The more I hear about BT the more I think they are a dodgy company, who are not on the side of us consumers

Other telecom service providers are available, but nobody – neither BT nor any of the others – has been able to find out how to tell that a call will be a nuisance before it has been answered. Perhaps artificial intelligence will resolve the problem, but until then it will persist unfortunately. And so long as number spoofing is technically possible that problem will not go away whichever network you are on.

Personally, I’m optimistic that, for digital exchanges, AI may be able to deal with the problem of cold calls from spoofed numbers.

Let’s hope so, but I fear it will come at a cost and it might be difficult to get the initial data processing investment funded and installed exchange by exchange unless there is high demand. I expect faster broadband for all will continue to be the priority.

AI raises some ethical and practical issues. Traditionally, the public telecom network has been an open highway in which any subscriber has the right to receive incoming calls from wherever they originate. Any blocking is done by the individual subscriber for their own line only. Retaining that exclusive approach might be incompatible with a national blocking system based on specific algorithms or data analytics. It would be interesting to explore how effective and economical blocking can be implemented based on a system-wide process. It would be like a massive search engine in reverse gear. I foresee some ingenious protocols having to be adopted.

Doreen says:
15 February 2020

We continually get the Amazon spoof call and each time I block the number with 1572 but still they come from other numbers. Sometimes these look like mobile numbers and sometimes International is on the display. We’re getting fed up of being woken up by these calls to our landline and they can be worrying as they could also be emergency calls from the family.

Hi Doreen, I think the caller display numbers used in these scams are a succession of faked numbers that the scammers change at will.

This makes it hard to block these calls using a list of prohibited numbers.

Instead, more effective call blocking can be done using a list of known, safe, permitted numbers.

For example, this phone:-https://www.argos.co.uk/product/4625089 , as sold by Argos (but other retailers are available), seems to have an “Ans Phone” mode of call blocking.

As shown on page 18 in here:-https://documents.4rgos.it/v1/static/4625089_R_D001 , that routes all calls to its answering machine, except for those from numbers in its Allowed Contacts list.